How the Communist Party of Great Britain discovered punk rock

This chapter demonstrates how and why a section of the Young Communist League (YCL) came to embrace punk as a signal of youthful revolt at least somewhat in tune with the objectives of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). It considers the party's debate on youth culture as a means to expose tensions that served both to enliven but also to fragment the left over the later twentieth century. The Socialist Workers' Party's support for and involvement in Rock Against Racism have, understandably, overshadowed the CPGB's more piecemeal interaction with punk-associated cultures. But while YCL members may not have seized the initiative as decisively as others on the left, some revealed themselves attuned to punk's early stirrings and engaged in wider debate as to the youth cultural changes over the later 1970s.

in Labour and working-class lives
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Class, locality and British punk

This chapter aims to reassess, contextualise and explain the contentious nature of Oi! in order to recover a marginalised voice that offers insight into aspects of broader socio-economic, political and cultural change. It focuses on Oi!'s class rhetoric and use of locality as key components of class-cultural identity. Oi! is located within the broader trajectory of British punk. The chapter discusses competing interpretations of Oi! with regard to wider debate on the politics of youth culture. It outlines Oi!'s predominant motifs in relation to the working-class milieu from which it emerged. If Oi! offered a view from the dead end of the street, as Garry Johnson insisted, then the chapter hopes to historicise its vision of a blighted early 1980s Britain. The chapter proposes that youth cultures and popular music provide a portal into the formative thoughts, aspirations and concerns of a not insubstantial section of the population.

in Fight back
An interview with Jon Savage

This chapter presents an interview between the author and Jon Savage regarding the cultural impact of punk. The interview sought to ascertain Savage's thoughts on the core themes of this book; that is, on punk's import beyond the music and in terms of identity, space and communication. Among the numerous accounts of punk's origins and early development that exist, Jon Savage's England's Dreaming is peerless. Combining sharp critical analysis with participatory insight, it locates British punk squarely within its socio-economic, cultural and political context. Savage's reading of punk may be traced back to his 1976-produced fanzine London's Outrage, which interspersed media clippings and pop cultural references with an essay forewarning Britain's descent into fascism. Though Savage's writing and broadcasting work has since led him to explore far wider vistas of popular culture, he remains a foremost commentator on punk's history and continuing relevance.

in Fight back
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Fanzines, politics and agency

This chapter comprises case studies of three fanzines: Jolt, Anathema and Hard as Nails. Each is examined as a means of understanding how fanzines offered space to develop political discourses and/or to define cultural identities in the face of competing media constructions. In their various ways, the fanzines engage with questions of feminism, anarchism and class.

in Ripped, torn and cut
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The British far left from 1956
Editors: Evan Smith and Matthew Worley

This book explores the role of the far left in British history from the mid-1950s until the present. It highlights the impact made by the far left on British politics and society. The book first looks at particular strands of the far left in Britain since the 1950s. It then looks at various issues and social movements such as Trotskyism, anti-revisionism and anarchism, that the left engaged (or did not engage) with, such as women's liberation, gay liberation, anti-colonialism, anti-racism and anti-fascism. The book focuses on how the wider British left, in the Labour Party and amongst the intelligentsia, encountered Trotskyism between the 1930s and 1960s. The Socialist Party (SP) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) traditions have proven to be the most durable and high profile of all of Britain's competing Trotskyist tendencies. Their opponents in the International Marxist Group and the Socialist Labour League/Workers' Revolutionary Party (SLL/WRP) each met limited success and influence in the labour movement and wider social movements. The SWP and Militant/SP outlived the 'official' Communist Party of Great Britain and from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the present day have continued to influence labour movement and wider politics, albeit episodically. The book is concerned with providing an overview of their development, dating from the end of the Second World War to the onset of the 2009 economic crisis.

The British far left from 1956
Editors: Evan Smith and Matthew Worley

Waiting for the revolution is a volume of essays examining the diverse currents of British left-wing politics from 1956 to the present day. The book is designed to complement the previous volume, Against the grain: The far left in Britain from 1956, bringing together young and established academics and writers to discuss the realignments and fissures that maintain leftist politics into the twenty-first century. The two books endeavor to historicise the British left, detailing but also seeking to understand the diverse currents that comprise ‘the far left’. Their objective is less to intervene in on-going issues relevant to the left and politics more generally, and more to uncover and explore the traditions and issues that have preoccupied leftist groups, activists and struggles. To this end, the book will appeal to scholars and anyone interested in British politics. It serves as an introduction to the far-left, providing concise overviews of organisations, social movements and campaigns. So, where the first volume examined the questions of anti-racism, gender politics and gay rights, volume two explores anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid struggles alongside introductions to Militant and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

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The far left in Britain from 1956

The term 'the left' in British politics is open to different interpretations. One of the constant features of the British far left is its oscillation between periods of unbridled enthusiasm and periods of profound pessimism, both of which may be seen in the left's analysis of the prevailing socio-economic and political climate. Since the dissolution of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1991, a flourish of studies emerged to examine aspects of communist history. The trajectory of those who left the CPGB varied. Divorcing themselves from party politics, E. P. Thompson and John Saville started The New Reasoner in 1957, which alongside Stuart Hall's Universities and Left Review became the focal point of the first wave of the New Left. This chapter also presents some key concepts discussed in this book.

in Against the grain
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in Waiting for the revolution
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From protest to resistance

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores some of the different ways in which punk has been understood, adopted and utilised since it first established itself in the cultural consciousness from the mid-1970s. It also explores the contemporary punk scene in Russia, concentrating on the nexus between violence, masculinity and subcultural affinity. The book looks at punk's relationship to locality and space, and concentrates on communication and reception. It examines the transgressive concept of 'immigrant punk' to present bands such as Kultur Shock as both reflecting and resisting the processes of postmodernity. The book also examines the representation of punk in film, exploring the diverse forms of 'punk cinema' forged since the 1970s. It explains academic and non-academic interest in the politics of a cultural form that continues to reverberate across the world.

in Fight back
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Adventures in reality: why (punk) fanzines matter

The introduction outlines the ways by which fanzines were integral to the development of punk-related cultures and embodied the ethos of do-it-yourself (DIY). It assesses some of the previous writing on fanzines and outlines the content of the book.

in Ripped, torn and cut